The betting in this Game got a lot more interesting as soon as word came out that Georges Niang broke his foot against NC Central. Iowa State was a hands down favorite before the news, but now it’s anybody’s guess how the Cyclones will play. Nevertheless, they are still slim -1.5 point favorites over North Carolina.
In that first Game, Niang was the difference maker stretching the floor and putting in 24 points, six boards, Four assists and Four three-pointers in 26 minutes. The loss of Niang changes up this roster a bit and will likely move Naz Long into the starting lineup. In that first Game, Long played 22 minutes and Matt Thomas played seven minutes off the bench. That was it for the ISU non-starters. That means either the Cyclones will have to use six players, or Fred Hoiberg will have to lean on someone that hasn’t averaged more than 6.3 minutes for the season.
The loss of Niang will definitely help UNC. If Niang was in the Game, James Michael McAdoo would likely have had to guard him along the perimeter. Granted, whoever takes Niang’s spot will still be able to shoot from long range, but they won’t have the same kind of activity down low.
The Tar Heels squeaked by in their win against Providence. They were ahead for most of the Game, but due to a run by Bryce Cotton, they found themselves down by five late in the Game. A late three by Marcus Paige sealed the deal though, and UNC escaped.
North Carolina is a great rebounding team that actually had more offensive boards than defensive ones in that Game against Providence. That will definitely come into play without Niang on the other end. The Tar Heels should also be able to go down low to McAdoo, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson due to ISU’s lack of size.
While Niang wasn’t exactly the best rebounder (4.4 per Game), that doesn’t mean his absence won’t be felt on the boards. Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue aren’t the biggest guys, but their athleticism and strength often overpowers their height issues. All three of those guys will have to step up along with Monte Morris. Their first goal will be to contain the big men down low which could be a problem, and then if they can do that, the Cyclones can’t give Marcus Paige open looks. The kid can shoot from anywhere and as seen in the last Game, can hit big shots.
This is going to be an exciting, fast-paced Game and if Iowa State only uses six players, they could have some heavy legs late in the second half.
When UNC does go big, will they be able to contain the Cyclones, all of whom can shoot from range and take it the hole? J.P. Tokoto will probably be asked to defend Kane, which may be their hardest matchup.
The loss of Niang is still an unknown to Iowa State as he’s played in every Game this year, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they deal without him early on.